Schumer Calls For Sessions Resignation, Special Prosecutor

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill about news reports of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ contact with Russia's ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 2, 2017. The revelation is spurring growing calls in Congress in both parties for him to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign after the Washington Post reported that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador twice during the presidential campaign.

“There cannot be even the scintilla of doubt about the impartiality and fairness of the attorney general, the top law enforcement official of the land. After this, it’s clear attorney general sessions does not meet that test,” Schumer said during a news conference. “Because the Department of Justice should be above reproach, for the good of the country, Attorney General Sessions should resign.”

Sessions denied during a confirmation hearing that he had been in contact with Russia during the 2016 campaign, but a White House official told TPM Thursday that he had “met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony.”

Schumer also demanded that the acting deputy attorney general, Dana J. Boente, who was nominated as a U.S. attorney by former President Barack Obama in 2015, appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 campaign – a role that Sessions would otherwise have picked.

“Now, this is not just common sense. This is what the Justice Department regulations require,” Schumer said, citing the legal guidelines for appointing a special counsel.

Schumer also called for a renewal – if the Justice Department “drags its feet” or selects someone “of insufficient independence” – of the independent counsel law, which authorized a three-judge panel authority to appoint an independent counsel, but which Congress let expire after the tabloid-friendly Whitewater investigation during the Clinton years.

“Ken Starr went too far,” Schumer said, referring to the Whitewater special counsel. “He tested the boundaries of the authority he was given.”

“The law, the independent counsel law, was not drafted tightly enough. But in this case, cognizant and wary of this history, we would work to craft a narrow authority with specific guidelines for this investigation to prevent this from becoming a political witch hunt,” he said.

Finally, Schumer called for the inspector general of the Department of Justice to begin investigating Sessions.

“We know the attorney general met with the president several weeks ago. What did they discuss?” he asked. “Have there been other contacts between the president or senior administration officials and the attorney general regarding this matter? Have there been any attempts to interfere with the investigation in any way? Has the AG or his close associates personally managed the work of career officials at the department of justice or FBI in the course of the investigation?”

“The inspector general has the ability, the right, and the obligation to find out answers to these questions and more,” Schumer said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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